What Is the Depo Shot?
Are you considering the Depo Provera injections as a form of birth control? Are you already on Depo Provera or have stopped it and wondering what it is doing to your body?
If you were to conduct an online search on the birth control option Depo Provera, what would you find? People asking about side effects? How about the thousands of women searching for answers concerning pregnancy during or after getting the shot?
I am one of those women. I had only one Depo shot, and I was searching for answers I did not have after stopping the shot. I am going to share my research about the Depo shot and how it affects getting pregnant in the future.
The synthetic progesterone in Depo Provera, or DMPA, works by keeping the progesterone levels in the body at a higher level, essentially making the body think it's pregnant and preventing ovulation. The longer Depo Provera is used, the longer it will take your body to restore normal menstrual cycles.
Can I Get Pregnant While I'm Using Depo Provera Birth Control?
Yes, but the chances are low. The failure rate for Depo Provera is estimated at 0.3%, which means that three women out of a thousand get pregnant while using it.
Even though the Depo Provera shot is meant to prevent pregnancy, there still is a chance you could become pregnant while on the shot. Here are some of the possible ways that the Depo shot may fail:
- The first shot was not given within the first 5 days of a normal period and you have had intercourse before the shot (meaning you were already pregnant at the time the shot was administered).
- You had unprotected intercourse within the first month of the shot before it was absolutely effective in your body.
- You did not get the next shot within 12 weeks.
For reasons unknown, a few women each year get pregnant while on the shot, even after being on the shot for longer than the first three months and getting it at the recommended times.
Just remember: the only 100% birth control method is no intercourse at all. All other forms are 99% or lower. If you want to prevent pregnancy while on the shot, use a backup method like a condom or spermicide.
If you do become pregnant on the shot, stop taking the shot immediately and contact your healthcare provider. There is little or no increased risk of birth defects, yet in some countries, it is reported that babies conceived while their mothers were on the shot may have a lower birth rate.
How Long After My First Depo Shot Am I Protected?
Depo Provera typically provides immediate protection in the current cycle as long as it is given within five days of the start of menses, says Dr. Tami Prince. Women who receive their first Depo shot more than five days after a period, after delivering a baby, or after having an abortion should use a backup form of contraception, such as a condom, for seven days.
Can I Get Pregnant After Receiving One Depo Provera Injection?
Yes, says Dr. Tami Prince, an ObGyn with the Women’s Health and Wellness Center of Georgia. "Pregnancy can occur after only one Depo Provera injection if the timing of the injection is off."
While the injection can be administered anytime during the cycle, she says, pregnancy must be ruled out first. This usually involves taking a pregnancy test at the first visit and another one in two weeks. If both pregnancy tests are negative, the Depo Provera injection may be administered.
"If the injection is given without both negative pregnancy tests, and more than five days after menses, there is a possibility that pregnancy can occur, as ovulation would not have been accurately calculated," says Dr. Prince.
For women who have just delivered a baby, their normal menstrual cycle may not have returned. A health care provider might give a pregnancy test to ensure that the woman isn't pregnant again before administering the shot.
I Want to Get Pregnant. How Long Will it Take After I Stop Taking Depo Shots?
If you are trying to get pregnant and have had one injection you aren't likely to get pregnant right away (although some women do). Remember that the injection lasts 12 weeks. After that, your body still has to adjust to get back to normal. For some women, it can take months to conceive. For me personally, it took 18 months after only one Depo shot to get pregnant.
What About Conceiving After Receiving Several Depo Shots?
Delayed fertility is a common issue in women who have used Depo Provera as a long-term contraception.
"Depo persists in the body for several months after the last injection," says Dr. Prince. "As such, 70% of women are able to conceive within 12 months. Fertility can be delayed up to two or more years in some cases."
As mentioned above, regular periods may not return for several weeks to several months. On average, most women will not ovulate for approximately 6-9 months, and some sources say that time frame may even be 6-18 months.
Studies on the subject don't show any evidence that using Depo Provera delays a woman's ability to conceive. In a study published in the Journal of Biosocial Science of nearly 800 women who had recently stopped using Depo Provera, the median wait to conceive was 5.5 months. Adding the time that the last injection was effective (3 months) extends the median delay to 8.5 months.
Can I Get Pregnant Even if My Period Hasn't Resumed Yet?
Yes, about 70% or women will conceive within 12 months after the last injection even if normal menses has not returned. As long as normal ovulation has returned, pregnancy may occur. Ovulation occurs first, then your period, so theoretically you can conceive without your first period after discontinuing Depo shots. Once your menstrual cycles resume, you should have no increased difficulty conceiving particularly if your periods were regular prior to using Depo Provera.
If a Depo injection is given without two negative pregnancy tests and more than five days after your period, there is a chance you could get pregnant.
How You Can Get Pregnant After Stopping Depo Provera Shots
If you would like to get pregnant after taking the Depo shot, here are some things you can do:
- Begin to track your ovulation with an ovulation kit, especially if your periods are not occurring once a month.
- Track your periods and make a note when they become regular.
- Have intercourse every other day from the time you stop your period until your next period, especially around ovulation.
- Take prenatal vitamins to give your body what it needs to support a pregnancy.
- If you don't get pregnant after a year of actively trying and you are under 35, visit your Ob/Gyn. If you are over 35, visit your Ob/Gyn after six months of actively trying to conceive.
Above all, be patient. It may take a while to become pregnant after stopping the shots.
Your chance of getting pregnant while using Depo Provera is 0.3%, which means that three women out of a thousand get pregnant while using it.
The Depo Detox Diet to Get Pregnant
Some women, after stopping the Depo shot, turn to a detox diet to help their bodies get rid of the synthetic progesterone lingering in their bodies. The detox diet helps to flush the synthetic progesterone from the liver and may help with becoming pregnant. The herbs on this list, particularly dandelion root and milk thistle, encourage detoxification, according to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
Note: If you are considering one of these detox diets, first consult your doctor. Some of the herbs may not be suitable for you or may be dangerous for an underlying condition you may have. You also should wait a few weeks to allow your body to rid itself of the hormone and to heal.
A detox diet may include the following:
- a lot of water
- fresh fruits and vegetables (and their juices)
- herbal teas
- dandelion root
- milk thistle
Again, be sure to consult your doctor before going on any kind of detox diet.
Menstrual Periods on the Depo Shot
After the first Depo shot, many women will experience irregular or unpredictable bleeding as the body gets used to the synthetic hormone. For many women on the Depo shot, periods will be light and often disappear after the first few months on the shot (that is called amenorrhea, or the absence of a period). Other women may experience heavy bleeding, which may last only for the length of a period or may last for weeks on end.
Before you had the shot, did you read all there is out there about Depo Provera?
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Depo Shot
more than 99% effective
not effective against STDs
protection lasts for three months
loss of bone minerals, which can cause osteoperosis
less expensive than other birth control
quarterly doctors visits
no need to remember it, other than doctor visits
chance of not having periods while on shot
effects last for a while even after last shot
may prevent uterine fibroids
many unpleasant side effects
Side Effects of the Depo Shot
Depo Provera has many unpleasant side effects, a few of which are also found in other forms of birth control:
- irregular bleeding, heavy bleeding, or no bleeding at all
- weight gain
- abdominal discomfort
- hair growth or loss
- breast tenderness
- fluid retention or bloating
- increased risk of bone fracture (decreased bone density)
Weight gain is one of the side effects that bothers women the most. In fact, for every year a woman is on Depo Provera, she gains additional weight, nearly doubling the weight gain from the initial year.
A combination of some of these side effects—namely fatigue, lack of bleeding (amenorrhea), breast tenderness, and bloating—can make some women feel like they are pregnant.
Serious side effects include anaphylactic reactions (severe allergic reactions) and ectopic pregnancy.
How Long Should I Use Depo Provera?
This form of birth control is for those who wish not to get pregnant at all or who wish not to get pregnant for a long while after giving birth. The recommended use for this shot is no more than two years, unless no other form of birth control works or is acceptable, due to the fact that it may cause bones to weaken from calcium loss.
Stopping the Depo Shot
After experiencing the side effects of Depo Provera or wanting to become pregnant, many women choose to stop getting the shots. To do so, contact your health care provider and ask to cancel your next shot. You may be asked about another form of birth control or if you need any more information.
When you stop taking the shot, it may take several weeks to several months to have a regular period again. You may once again experience irregular bleeding and abnormal periods until the hormone is out of your system. Most women may not experience ovulation for approximately 6-9 months after stopping the shot, while others may get pregnant soon after stopping the shot. If you want to stop the shot yet still don't want to become pregnant, use some other form of birth control.
Depo Shotview quiz statistics
As you can see, the Depo Provera shots are a long-term birth control option that may not be for everyone. Make sure to make an informed decision if you are choosing this shot as your birth control.
- How Progesterone Works
- FDA Information about Depo Provera
- American Pregnancy (Depo Provera)
- Family Doctor (Depo Provera)
- WebMD (Depo Provera)
- Herbs for Detox
- Return of fertility after use of the injectable contraceptive Depo Provera
- The Long-Term Health Implications of Depo Provera
Detoxification in Naturopathic Medicine: A Survey
Dr. Tami Prince
Questions & Answers
I had been on Depo for eleven years before stopping. At first, I got regular periods, but then I started spotting for only a few days. Now, I am experiencing irregular spotting and stomach aches. Do you know what could be the cause?
It seems as though there is some sort of hormonal imbalance or illness going on. I highly suggest speaking with your doctor.
I've been on Depo for two years, and for the last two shots, I was not having sex. I have since stopped taking Depo. Could I possibly still get pregnant?
It's possible to become pregnant from this point forward.
I got my first Depo shot on April 2, and I was told to wait until the 16 of April to have unprotected sex. After about three to four weeks, the shot should be effective, right? A day or two ago my partner and I had unprotected sex, and he didn’t pull out. Is there a chance I'm pregnant?
The Depo shot should cover you at this point. For more protection, use a condom as well.Helpful 1
I’ve only had one Depo shot. I was supposed to get my second on May 15th and I never did. Can I get pregnant?
It's possible, but it may take a while.Helpful 2
I’ve been on the depo shot for over a year and a half and I haven’t gotten my period ever since I got my first shot. Does that mean I don’t ovulate anymore? My boyfriend and I had unprotected sex. Is there a chance to be pregnant since I’ve been on the shot for so long and haven’t gotten my period in forever?
The shot does work by preventing ovulation. Without ovulation, there's a slim chance of pregnancy. That being said, there have been women who got pregnant even while on the shot. If you're not interested in having a baby right now, you might consider a backup method.
© 2012 Marissa